The government maintained protection efforts. In 2019, the government delayed development of its comprehensive countrywide statistical system on trafficking, including victim identification and assistance data, which commenced in 2017. Subsequently, for the third consecutive year, the government did not report an official number of victims it identified or assisted. However, the government estimated it identified 100 victims in 2019 (the last reported official statistic was 262 victims identified and assisted in 2016). Additionally, government-funded civil society organizations reported identifying 126 victims and assisting 238 presumed victims in 2019. Officials noted double counting likely occurred across organizations. NGOs reported the shift toward online prostitution made identifying sex trafficking victims more difficult. Furthermore, experts noted deficiencies in identifying labor trafficking victims. Although the government had neither formal identification procedures nor a NRM, authorities utilized informal guidelines to identify and refer potential victims. The government began to develop a NRM and assigned the task to the Labor and Welfare Administration Agency. However, experts expressed concern that the labor agency had minimal experience and knowledge in dealing with trafficking victims and trends in general. Experts also expressed concern the proposed NRM would reduce the reflection period for victims from six months to 45 days, which could result in fewer victims assisting authorities in investigations and authorities deporting more victims while they were still recovering from their abuse. Consequently, the government delayed development of the NRM.
The government provided victim assistance through municipal crisis centers and government-funded NGOs, including Re-establishment, Organizing safe places to stay, Security, Assistance (ROSA), the largest project exclusively assisting trafficking victims in Norway. These NGOs provided foreign and domestic victims with shelter, legal aid, stipends for food, psychological care, medical assistance, fitness facilities, and Norwegian language classes. Parliament allocated 30 million kroner ($3.42 million) to NGOs specifically for assistance services, the same amount as in 2018 (20 million kroner—$2.28 million—in 2017). ROSA received 3.1 million kroner ($352,990) in government funding, compared with 2.9 million kroner ($330,220) in 2018. The Directorate for Children, Youth, and Family Affairs established a coordinating unit to provide service and assistance to child trafficking victims. Authorities placed child victims in state-run institutions, such as orphanages, for up to six months. Municipal child welfare services assisted three potential child victims, a decrease from eight in 2018. According to officials, authorities struggled to identify child trafficking victims and maintain statistics. The law provided foreign victims the same access to care as domestic victims and residency to those who testified in a criminal case that was prosecuted as a trafficking case. In 2019, the government began revisions to the law, proposing that victims who testify may be considered eligible for residency without the requirement of the case being prosecuted as a trafficking case. While NGOs welcomed improvements to the law, they criticized the government for suggesting that a victim “may” be eligible for residency, stating that a victim should automatically be eligible when contributing to a criminal case. In 2019, authorities granted four residence permits for victims testifying in trafficking cases. Authorities granted a six-month reflection period to five victims and limited residence permits of up to 12 months to 14 victims, compared with 13 and 11, respectively, in 2018. Authorities granted six possible victims residence permits due to compelling humanitarian considerations (two in 2018). Observers raised concerns over the police’s focus on lack of residence permits and immigration relief, resulting in the deportation of victims without screening for trafficking indicators. Additionally, the continued closure of the Storskog border crossing with Russia to anyone seeking protection prevented the screening for victims of trafficking along the northern border. The government awarded a sex trafficking victim 200,000 kroner ($22,770) in compensation for non-pecuniary damages.